In addition to the Most Endangered Structures, Preservation Worcester also selects a number of structures that are well-maintained or have recently been restored for a Commendation List. This year’s Commendation List includes:
3 Harvard Place
The Charles H. Bowker House, located at 3 Harvard Place, sits in a wooded grove just steps from Worcester’s resurgent North Main Street corridor. Built in 1874 as the showplace home of local industrialist Charles Bowker, the High Victorian Gothic structure features a red brick exterior with black masonry banding and decoration. A prominent corner turret, cast iron cresting, and steeply pitched rooflines give the building an imposing presence as it rises from the steep incline of the property. While the building has suffered interior fire damage and lost its original windows and slate roof, it retains much of its original character. A.S. Roe admiringly described the Charles H. Bowker House at its finest in his Twenty Years of Harvard Street (1894): “Covered with ivy, the west side commands Harvard Place, while the east side overlooks Worcester. There are steep stairs leading down to Main street, and there is the city, with all its din, bustle and beauty. To my mind, there is no more attractive residence in the city.”
The Charles F. Bowker House has appeared on Preservation Worcester’s Most Endangered Structures List in 2005, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2106.
8 Sycamore Street
According to information stated in the Area Survey completed in 1977 by the Worcester Heritage Preservation Society, and found on the MACRIS website, Sycamore Street was laid out as a private street in 1846 on the fringe of the developed portion of the city but later became a public street in 1862.
This Survey states this is “An excellent example of the popular Greek Revival style, side hall type of house, the Newton House is a two and one-half story frame structure with a pedimented facade gable. The facade is framed by corner pilasters and has a Doric porch. Along the lot’s street frontage is a low granite wall and wooden picket fence.” At the time of the review it is also stated “the Newton house and it’s property are exceptionally well-maintained”.
Additional information in this Area Survey informs us the original owner of the property was S.D. Newton, a painter who lived in the house until approximately 1854 when the property was occupied by Benjamin Lewis of Spurr & Lewis, victuals and by James Lewis who worked in a local telegraph office. Neighbors at the time included a principal of the Sycamore Street School, a shoe manufacturer and a trunk and harness maker.
This property was on the Endangered List in 2009. The most recent information shows that this house was sold on May 23, 2019 for $1.00 to an LLC in Everett, MA.
517 Main Street
The Cheney-Ballard Building was built in 1870 and Is of Second Empire design. The building has a mansard roof and strong massing. The building suffers for deferred maintenance and is unoccupied. It is listed in the Worcester Redevelopment Authority’s Downtown Revitalization Plan as a building needing rehabilitation.
5 Richards Street
The Deacon David Richards House, now located at 5 Richards Street across from the former South High School, is believed to date from 1780 and to have originally occupied the northeast corner of Main and Richards Streets. As such, it is one of the very oldest examples of Federalist architecture in the City. The house features a pedimented entry with a five pane top light, symmetrical center entrance facade and twin chimneys.
The Richards family transferred the property to the Gates family, who developed this section of Worcester. Later, the Schofield family, whose most prominent member is Schofield Thayer, the Modernist editor and art collector, owned the home.
Today, the building stands empty after a fire and is owned by U.S. Bank, NA. Its architecture, age, location and history make it important that it be recognized and restored.
This is the house’s second appearance on the Endangered Structure’s List.
27 Tirrell Street
The large, multi-family building at 27 Tirrell Street is in the Queen Anne style. Built circa 1896, it features an octagon turret and octagon single story front entrance which is a rarely used form. It has a gambrel roof and brick foundation. The front roof features a hip roof dormer. Fenestration includes Queen Anne sash and a large Palladian window.
This structure was built as a single family residence for the Frank Ruggles family. Frank Ruggles was likely a descendant of Draper Ruggles who was associated with the firm of Ruggles, Nourse & Mason in the mid-1800’s. This firm manufactured cast iron plows and other agricultural equipment and was one of the largest manufacturers of this type in Worcester at a time when the City led the nation in this field. In 1902, an E. C. Harrington bought the property and later in the 1900’s the Ames family were the owners.
While Tirrell St. is blessed with a number of beautiful homes from this era, this striking and unusual structure has been sided, had its first floor porch enclosed, and slate roof replaced with asphalt shingles. Within the last year it apparently suffered a fire and is now boarded up and a blight on the neighborhood which is located in the Main South area.
61 Harvard Street
The Greek Revival/Neo-Classical style Salisbury House is one of the most significant buildings in Worcester, both architecturally and historically. Completed in 1838 for Stephen Salisbury II on plans by noted master builder, Elias Carter, this two-and-a-half-story, wood frame, hip-roofed dwelling is an imposing presence on Highland Street. It stands near the Georgian style Salisbury Mansion,
The Salisbury House, together with its neighbors, the 1772 Georgian style Salisbury Mansion (now a house museum) and the former Salisbury Store, is associated with the wealthy Salisbury family, which played an outstanding role in the life and development of the city from the 18th century through the early-20th century.
Carefully maintained in the past, when occupied by the Worcester Art Museum and later by the American Red Cross, the building, now under private ownership, currently suffers from deferred maintenance. The visual impact and historical character of this precinct of outstanding buildings is further diminished by the presence of a large municipal parking lot in their midst.
Both the architectural and historical significance of the Salisbury Mansion, and that of its outstanding neighbors, demand that it receive greater recognition of its outstanding role in the architecture and history of the city as well as the kind of care and attention that it deserves. The property appeared Preservation Worcester’s Most Endangered Structures List in 2012, 2014, 2017, 2018, and 2019.
17-27 Pleasant Street
Opened in 1891 as Lothrop’s Opera House, the imposing brick edifice located at 17-27 Pleasant St. in the heart of Worcester’s downtown, is the oldest remaining theater in the city. The theater, designed by architects Cutting and Forbush, once hosted some of the city’s most prominent acts. The venue was renamed the Olympia Theater, Lynch’s Pleasant Theater, later the Fine Arts Theater, and finally the New Art Cinema, playing host to countless performances and screenings spanning three centuries of our City’s history. The four-story structure currently houses retail on its ground floor, with the once bustling theater concealed behind boarded windows on the upper floors. Little has changed about the building’s exterior since the 19th century, apart from superficial modifications at the first floor. A pair of recessed wall panels dominates the center of the Pleasant St. face of the building, topped by matching, elegant semi-elliptical lights. The lack of ornamentation on the building’s red/brown masonry façade does little to communicate the fading charm of the theater’s interior. While suffering from neglect, much of the building’s original plaster work remains visible, including the geometric design of the 125-year-old ceiling. The building is included in a district of buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Shuttered in January, 2006, the theater remains vacant, while retail activity has continued in its’ modified storefronts. Targeted within the Worcester Redevelopment Authority’s Downtown Urban Revitalization Plan as a potential “Building to be Demolished,” Worcester’s oldest remaining theater is in imminent danger.
Lothrop’s Opera House/ Olympia Theater’s has been on Preservation Worcester’s Most Endangered Structures List since 2016.
521 Main Street
The Holbrook-Sawyer Building was built 1855 and is located in the heart of downtown Worcester. Although the façade is currently covered in mid-20th-century sheathing, it is likely that beneath the sheathing a classic example of Italianate style architecture featuring arcaded window caps supported by paired columns will be found. If this is the case, this building would not only be one of the few downtown structures surviving from the mid-19th century, but also the only one of its architectural type in the city – an outstanding contribution to the streetscape.
In June 2017, Worcester officials declared the building unsafe when it was discovered that bricks were falling off the rear façade. As a result, the Great Wall Restaurant located there was closed. Most of the rear of the building was demolished and repaired. Currently the structure is unoccupied. A positive sign is that The Great Wall Restaurant is scheduled to reopen in late August 2019 although the remaining four stories remain unoccupied. The structure is listed in the Worcester Redevelopment Authority’s Downtown Revitalization Plan as a building needing rehabilitation.
The Holbrook- Sawyer Building was on our 2017 Most Endangered Structures List.
23-25 Blackstone River Road
Circa 1877, the Lindberg and Dahlin Double Cottages are located at 19 and 23 Blackstone River Road. This once marvelous Victorian Eclectic style structure is one of the few worker cottages remaining in Quinsigamond Village. Although few factory-owned worker’s housing was built in Worcester in the nineteenth century, some cottages were built along the east side of Millbury Street (now Blackstone River Road) in Quinsigamond Village by then local Washburn and Moen Company. These two cottages were apparently built and owned privately. In 1877, Alfred Dahlin, “hammersman” at Washburn & Moen’s Quinsigamond wireworkers, was first listed in one half the 23 Blackstone River Road cottage.
Although the building has undergone some alteration, it still retains a central dormer with jerkin-head roof and brackets, a double width front porch with turned woodwork and some original vertical sheathing. The property shows signs of deterioration and water damage – the roof, the siding, the chimney (needs re-pointing), and the woodwork around the porch area, all require renovation to further stop the decay of this structure.